You are about to attend a school unlike any other; it’s an education unlike any public or private school and it really deserves another word to describe it. It is Accelerated Christian Education. You walk into a room to find a series of carrels (I’m used to the word cubicle) that are designed so that you cannot see or interact with your neighbors; the exceptions being the daily Biblical devotional class and group mini-classes so that you can build up some social interaction skills . You will work in your office for three or four hours – but you’ll be permitted to take breaks every now and then – if you have earned them.. This is your office – and it will be your assigned seat from day one until the day you graduate; 24/7/365 of K-12. In front of you – is a wall and your back is to the rest of the room – all the offices are arranged in this way. On the wall is your goal card for the day – you will mark them complete one-by-one.
On your desk is a workbook. It is a Packet of Accelerated Christian Education. There are twelve of them for each subject that you study. Most students complete 70 self-chosen/elective PACES each year, and another 70 PACES from assigned subjects which include: Math, English, Literature & Creative Writing, Word Building / Etymology, Science, Social Studies, and Old and New Testament. Think of PACES as the equivalent of a unit in a typical textbook; ripped out of the book and presented as the lesson for the day.
There are rules as to how this is to be done. Each day, you must complete one PACE in each subject, from your assigned subjects each day. You complete the work book and raise a Christian or American flag. The supervisor will confirm that you’ve completed the work and permit you to leave your office and go to the scoring station. There you will find your PACE with all the correct answers filled in. You compare your work to the answer book and mark out anything you got wrong. Then you’re supposed to return to your desk and re-work the problems. Some of your classmates figured out it was far easier to memorize the correct answers from the workbooks and fill them in once you’re back at your desk. Other classmates have older brothers and sisters who know what the correct answers are just tell them the answers. You don’t really have to learn or retain anything – it’s all memorization.
Your education is basically an exercise in self-study. You won’t get any feedback on how or why you’re getting things wrong – you have to figure it out for yourself. if you have a learning disability – it’s less likely to be diagnosed; it also doesn’t help that A.C.E. isn’t designed for those with learning disabilities. Making too many trips to the scoring desk for one PACE isn’t good. Enforcing discipline and correcting errant students usually falls upon an administrator and some schools permit him to use an array of paddles as spanking is generally accepted as the Biblical form of discipline. Bible verses are liberally used for just about everything. In PACEs, there are morality cartoons – girls should be modest, wives should submit to their husbands, and children should obey their parents are among it’s teachings.
There are five laws of learning:
- Students must be placed at the academic level in each subject where they can best perform.
- Reasonable goals must be set each school day.
- Students must be controlled and motivated.
- Learning must be measurable.
- Learning must be rewarded.
The learning material is Biblically based, you’ll find Scripture verses word-for-word, stories from Scripture, and exercises routinely refer to Scripture as an example. You might be asked to circle all the verbs in John 3:16 or told to memorize Proverbs 22:6. Each morning, you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you also say the pledge to the Christian Flag as well as to the Bible. Then altogether, you and your fellow students read the same passage aloud for one month – usually a whole chapter of a book – like 1 Corinthians 13.
Since the course is Biblically-based, your science lessons will likely begin with Young Earth Creation theology, explaining the age of the Earth is 6,000 years. You’ll be taught that the Loch Ness monsters is real, a dinosaur, and proof that humans and dinosaurs lived together on Earth. From beginning to end, the Bible and Christian teachings provide the basis and framework for everything you will learn. So any reasoning or explanation must first be in line with what Scripture says to be the correct answer – which is good because there will always be a correct answer and your only job is to try, try, try again until you arrive at it because you are teaching yourself things you don’t know.
I guess one of the reasons why I’m hesitant to buy into the hype that A.C.E. is just as good – possibly even better – then public school is that it’s like comparing apples to oranges. A.C.E. seems to be all about teachings kids to arrive at the correct answer by correcting anything they get wrong. But there is no one method that the secular world is using to teach kids, the ultimate aim is to teach kids how to think for themselves as they mature into adults and they’re willing to try different approaches until they find the right one for each child; A.C.E. can’t do that. Self-learning in silence and isolation might work for some students, but that sort of tedium only makes things worse for others who need communication and teamwork to grasp concepts.
Also, there is a prominent Complementarian streak to the A.C.E. curriculum that emphasizes the submission of the wife to her husband and demands unquestioning obedience to those in authority – both in terms of the child to their parent and the wife to her husband. Girls get told from a very young age that they are different than boys and their role is to be the helper.
A.C.E. is training to be a good Christian; but it doesn’t train students to be academically prepared to perform at institutes of higher learning. It doesn’t help that it’s not the equivalent of a G.E.D. and that A.C.E. students usually need to spend lots of time catching up to the level of a G.E.D. Think about it – the ACE student masters Young Earth Creationism, but won’t be able to answer anything on evolution. Since they were taught that every question has one correct answer, open-ended questions will be a confusing concept. Even something like learning how to take notes presents an obstacle to overcome.
A.C.E. is Christian, but it isn’t accelerated, it isn’t education, and it isn’t even excellent. They say that they are “the school of tomorrow” – but they are anything but. For the last 40 years, A.C.E. has been used in countries all over the world – it’s particularly strong in fundamentalist communities where you can watch a video telling you how to convert your church facility into an A.C.E. school on the six days a week you aren’t worshiping God because its your Christian duty to train your children in God’s ways and the evil public schools will make them rebellious and immoral secular humanists. Perhaps the most telling results of A.C.E. speaks for itself in the stories of it’s graduates, kids who walked out of a Christian bubble and into a confusing world, kids whose confidence was shattered, who felt stupid and ignorant and couldn’t make the grade, who didn’t understand the how’s or the why’s of the way that things worked – and why should they? They were trained to do well in one environment and totally unprepared to face the obstacles in another.
So let’s say you happen use ACE because you home-school your kids or your kids are in an ACE school facility – what should you do? Supplement. Realize there are gaps in what your kids will learn and fill in the holes. Teach them how to take notes. let them learn about critical thinking and expose them to the real world outside of their Christian bubble. Scrounge up old school text-books from places like Goodwill and let your kids learn from those. Realize that idea of individualization in ACE schools goes about it wrong – each individual responds best to what works for them, and not all of them will excel when told to sit in an office facing the wall for three or four mind-numbing hours out of the day to do busywork. Find things that cause their eyes to light up with wonder and curiosity – don’t trust route memorization to be the ideal that works for everyone.
It’s okay if you feel like you’re out of your league in educating your kid – there is a lot of information out there – and “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” shows me how much has changed each and every year that I’m out of school. I don’t think even I’d be up to the task of imparting my knowledge because I know that there’s so much I’ve forgotten and so much more I never got the chance to learn. It’s intimidating – but if you want to give your child the brightest education and the best hope for their future – for them to succeed and be able to do anything they desire – then you’ll have to recognize that A.C.E. fails that test and prevents them from living up to their full potential. Sure, some kids might fly with blazing colors – but others succeed only in spite of their education and credit their hard-work, determination, and unfailingly dedicated teachers and tutors who helped them learn how to learn all over again and tirelessly believed in them when they didn’t believe in themselves.
Some might ask – why this topic? I was reading through Christianity’s reddit and the words of a young woman who was failed by ACE and it just bothered me. Her world was shattered when she was switched to public school and had to spend a few years catching up to the rest of the students and graduated only a year behind those who were her age. She lamented that nobody really knew what ACE was and how horribly bad it is for those kids who just don’t do well in it’s strangling environment. She just wanted people to know (1.) what ACE was and (2.) it’s not accredited / the equivalent of a G.E.D / any semblance of a proper education. There are stories like hers all over the internet – the most famous of which is the author of Patheos’ Leaving Fundamentalism – who has dedicated many posts to describing many of ACE’s failures from his personal experience and the comments left all over his posts tend to echo his sentiments: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/leavingfundamentalism/accelerated-christian-education/
To be honest, no, I haven’t had any personal experience with ACE; I have an outsiders perspective. As I look inward – what I’m seeing isn’t good. I can see the stories of young men and women who don’t just feel the effects of a deficient education, but they suffer what seems to be profound scars from the sum of their experiences. These accounts stand in stark contrast to the positive testimonies about ACE that are all over the web – but we know that one doesn’t necessarily cancel out the other – both can be true at the same time and that’s what worries me. People read all the best-case scenario glowing testimonials about how a kid graduated early, aced college, married young, and have it all … not realizing that as much truth rings in the worst-case scenario accounts of kids who find out that “neglect becomes our ally.” What do I mean? The aforementioned blogger was able to find a few decades-old used PACE workbooks and looked through them. He found that fifth and sixth grade level students didn’t understand concepts like verb tenses, they were routinely misspelling words, kids themselves weren’t finding the errors they were making – and couldn’t figure out how to fix them – not that their supervisors were of much assistance – many pages went un-reviewed and uncorrected. I kind of get how bad that can be. You see, I had once tried to make up my own math. My teacher eventually caught on to which mistakes I was routinely making and explained to me how and why my math wasn’t working. She walked me through how to do it all over again and she rescued my grades from being bad. Had I been left on my own, I wouldn’t have realized that I was doing it wrong because sometimes I ended up with the right answers even though I was doing my math incorrectly. I had a teacher and it was good thing for me. She had received a proper education and mastery in her subject – so she understood where I went wrong in my thinking. Since most of the supervisor teams in ACE schools are basically the pastor and his wife, without any degrees in teaching or specific mastery of any or every subject – that leaves a lot of holes that they can’t fill. Beyond making others aware that ACE exists – there has to be something that we can do. Demands that we can make that kids who are educated by any facility be able to communicate their ideas effectively and think freely for themselves – as these kids are the future of our world and they will decide on what the future looks like for their kids. What will that future look like?